The success of Commonwealth Games would not have been this sweet if India had slipped to third spot in the medals tally. However, unperturbed by this burden of expectations, the sensational badminton duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa won India its first gold in a badminton event which eventually contributed in equalling England’s gold tally.
Born with movie star looks, both Jwala and Ashwini saw off the Singaporean challenge in style, smashing them in straight games to become the first women pair from India to win a CWG gold. In a candid chat with Zeenews.com’s Chayan Rastogi, Jwala-Ashwini said that they are now ready for the Asiad Games next month and will try to repeat the heroics for the nation.
How does it feel winning a Gold for India?
Ashwini: The feeling is majestic! No words can describe the emotions we are going through. To be honest, nobody expected us to win doubles gold. We were taking one match at a time and were up against the first seeded Singaporean pair. We played a great game, and the final just brought out the best in us. We’re really happy for our performance; it’s such an exciting feeling.
Your win helped India to equalise England’s gold tally, how was the pressure?
Jwala: We were not aware of this scenario while playing. It was only after Saina (Saina Nehwal) won her match that we were told that India is now second on medals tally and our gold has actually helped India to draw level. We are happy that badminton brought this feat for India.
How is it playing in front of the home crowd?
Ashwini: The feeling is just marvellous. It looked as if the whole nation was behind us. Every point was being cheered like a match-point. With every point, we rose in our confidence.
Who was the toughest opponent in the event?
Ashwini: We had a tough first round where we beat Malaysia, and then in the finals we were against the top seeded duo. However, winning against Malaysians was tougher, they really gave us a good fight.
The Games, initially, were clad with so much negativity. How did you feel about the entire scenario?
Jwala: The negative publicity of the Games was not due to sportspersons. It was not our problem. We always knew that it’ll be only our performance that will count for us. The organizing committee had to handle these issues and we had to handle our game. So, different paths altogether!
Who do you credit for this overwhelming success?
Jwala: Well, hard work has no substitute. Having said that, I’ll also thank my coach Hadi Sugianto from Indonesia, who has helped me great deal in improving my game.
India’s performance in CWG 2010 has been excellent. We won more than 100 medals, came second on medals tally. How does that feel?
Ashwini: We’re thrilled with this performance. When everyone believed that only Saina will bring laurels in badminton, we too have managed to register our presence. Everybody gave their best to the games. Shooters, wrestlers, boxers everybody did their part to bring pride for the nation.
Jwala, you’ve been in some off-field controversies lately. What are your thoughts about it?
Jwala: Yes, my name has been dragged in many controversies lately. It was about my personal life and lots of ‘bakwaas’ (nonsense) has been said about my character. During those testing times, no one from the badminton association came to my help, and I was left alone to battle all these maligning issues. Thankfully, my family was there to support me.
Do these controversies affect your game?
Jwala: Had this happened to another girl, these charges would have affected badly. But, I am strong and I took it in my stride. This win is my answer to those people.
One last question, what can we expect from you two rock stars of badminton?
Ashwini: We certainly have our eyes set on Asiad gold and will work hard to qualify for the Olympics. Fingers crossed.
Thanks Ashwini, Jwala for talking to us. Hope you will bring more medals to the country in the future.
Ashwini: Thanks a lot.